Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Asylum for Iraqi translators on hold

The UK government will make no decision for several months on the plight of Iraqi interpreters working with the British army in Basra, the Defence Secretary warned this morning.

The translators working for the military should be given asylum in UK on humanitarian grounds. They were valuable to the military in communication with the locals. For the translators, once discharged by the military, the can face an uncertain future as they may not have another job with the same pay or simply they can become jobless. They may run the risk of being attacked by the militias who will consider them just as traitors working for an occupier, facilitating for them their military operations.

But granting asylum to them can prove controversial among the Iraqis themselves. They will say that these translators have all the advantages. In Iraq, they are economically secure through the high pay while millions of Iraqis are struggling to eek out a living. After this they will have the chance to live in UK away from the daily violence affecting the Iraqis. There they can start a new life. The case of the translators is just an iceberg in an ocean of troubles. There are millions of Iraqis that are displaced within and outside Iraq. They can have more convincing arguments to be granted asylum as they have lost everything and they can’t return to their original places.

As there are other Iraqis working for British NGO and companies, singling out translators will be seen just as a preferential treatment while all those who work/ have worked with the British see themselves as no less than the translators.

For the UK, it can have security concerns about this kind of asylum seekers. They are coming from a war zone. There can the risk of at least one of them turning into a security threat. The recent terror attempts in London and Edinburgh showed that some of the suspects were of Middle Eastern origins with high education. So UK will have to carry out thorough investigations about the asylum seekers.

Maybe, the UK should have foreseen the likelihood of having asylum seekers of this kind. It could have included in its contracts with the translators that it responsibility with them ends with the contracts. Or perhaps the UK forces should have hired translators from other countries. In UK, there are plenty people of Middle Eastern origin who can do the job.

As a last resort, UK should intercede for them to have asylum in another Arab country like Jordan or the Gulf States. With their money, they can start a new life there, not as translators –probably. But by setting up a business, however small it may be just for dear life.

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